Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Oh Lord! As my Granddad was famous for saying in his Southern drawl.  I just spent close to 10 hours (14 if you count travel) in one of the most grueling, difficult endeavors of my life.  I won’t quite liken it to childbirth, but . . . I was asked to be a judge for a large Guild Show.  And for some mixture of self-destructive impulses and curiosity I said yes. I have had a lot of my work judged, and I have often been mystified by the comments of the judges, which often seemed random and not at all focused on the issues I was aware of in the piece.

Talk about walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes.

I have so much sympathy now that I have lived the process.  The first HUGE challenge is trying to get past the “I like this.” “I hate this.” initial reaction.  Then the grueling part begins – you have to try to suspend judgement while judging . . . Meaning that you have to try to stick to the judging criteria in the most objective way possible. Criteria such as workmanship, finishing, texture, pattern and overall design. You also have to assign specific numbers from one to ten for each category. So, what’s the difference between a 5 and a 6?  Also, what’s the difference between a “5” rug that took weeks to weave and a “5” scarf that took a day or two at most.

I feel like I was quite fair overall while expressing my aesthetic opinion a bit. I encourage anyone who wants to weave to weave away in any way that they find enjoyable – really! But I am a little frustrated by seeing so many (undeniably pretty, undeniably well-woven) snowflake twill scarves in silk.  I did prefer the (undeniably attractive, undeniably well-woven) original pieces I saw.  Again, if you want to weave – weave what you love. But if you want to enter a show – I think you should try to weave something original or if not an original draft, at least an original twist. After 10 hours looking at weaving – surprise me – entertain me:))  I also think there should be separate categories or even separarte shows for historic reproductions.  Looking at BEAUTIFUL historic linens, woven and finished beautifully is a treat, but I don’t know what to do with them next to an original piece.  A separate category would help.

At the end, the winners were truly the best pieces.  Because there were quite a few categories we were able to shift pieces that we felt should win something into another appropriate category. Well woven, beautiful and with something interesting about them.  So I will quote a David Foster Wallace short story title to conclude – “a supposedly fun thing I will never do again.” . . . (until next week – arrgh!)

7 thoughts on “Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

  1. Argh, that sounds torturous! Did you learn anything in relation to your own weaving from the process?

    I once entered an ‘art quilt’ into a juried show and won a prize… it killed my interest in art quilting in an instant! In fact, I’ve told myself very firmly that this weaving hobby of mine is purely for my home and family use and no competition shall be entered into! (ok, ok apart from the local agricultural show, maybe).

    • Great question Claire, and the answer is yes. I think the process will add to my “intentional” design – thinking more about every decision I make in design, weaving and finishing. However, I’m torn – I usually don’t like the focus to be so intensely or exclusively on the minutiae of the craftsmanship, i.e. are the fringes exactly even, is the beat perfect, etc. – especially at the expense of good/interesting/innovative design. I also feel like the minutiae has been over emphasized by hand-weaving shows because it is one area that can be judged fairly objectively unlike color and design which has a lot of personal taste mixed in. Of course the unattainable (or almost) goal is to weave something that scores in every category – beautifully crafted, thoughtful, meaningful, beautiful, interesting and innovative. Well, with that in mind, I better get cracking:))

  2. Hi. Very timely, as I am awaiting the results for the Handwoven Garment challenge now. I have often wondered what it must be like to judge a weaving competition/juried exhibition, and now I have a better idea. Thanks for your thoughts as always (and now I actually did post photos of my vest at weavingcowboy.blogspot.com – since you asked for pictures!)

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